Live Italian, Amazon Prime Video, review: Jack Whitehall travelogue rustles up easy laughs
It probably says something quite sad about me that I found Live Italian, a new three-part travelogue on Amazon Prime Video, so enjoyable. Its message was all about taking things easy, and it’s certainly one that the producers had embraced – this was an impressively unimaginative concoction made up of two parts Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy, one part James May: Our Man in Italy, a dollop of Travel Man and a seasoning of every other culinary-cultural travel show since Judith Chalmers first had her passport stamped.
Episode one roped in Jack Whitehall for a week in Tuscany, and you could see why he took the gig: accompanied by the Italian presenter Chiara Maci they drove round in a Piaggio van and stuffed their faces on Amazon’s dollar. Someone had come up with a contrived challenge-narrative to structure the whole thing, whereby at the end of it all Whitehall had to cook a meal for those he’d met. Basically this was a celebrity beano with excellent food.
Reason not the need: I laughed like a drain throughout and booked my summer holiday straightaway. I worry for my sense of humour, but the sight of Whitehall repeatedly asking craggy artisans if they had any alphabetti spaghetti got me every time. And we all know that making rude words out of pasta shapes is the acme of fine dining.
As it happens, living “the Italian way” didn’t change Whitehall one jot – he simply wise-cracked his way from Siena to Florence making chipolata jokes about Renaissance sculpture. He followed simple recipes in a nice kitchen and crashed through the language barrier at every opportunity. In the much-heralded golden age of television we probably have a right to expect something approaching a new idea every now and then, but 45 minutes of Whitehall farting around was still terrific entertainment.
He is the perfect silly British boy to take on a "grand tour" and play Bertie Wooster. Add in the backdrop of Tuscan hill-towns, olive groves and drool-worthy food photography and you had the TV equivalent of cacio e pepe: simple, predictable, but matchlessly pleasurable when done well.